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Alcohol Consumption in Seniors: A Delicate Balance

Numerous studies on the effects of alcohol consumption in seniors indicate that moderate drinking by seniors can have a positive impact on general health. However, there is also a concern that heavy drinking can have adverse effects, and that alcohol abuse is often missed in the senior population.

10-15% of people don’t start to drink heavily until they are older in age

Many of us enjoy having a cocktail with friends or drinking a glass of wine with dinner. For seniors, with a doctor’s approval, this doesn’t have to change. However, it’s important to be aware of the ways that alcohol can physically affect older adults, and how the signs of alcohol abuse look different for seniors that suffer from the negative effects.

As we age:
  • How we process alcohol changes - Slower metabolism can cause alcohol to stay in the body for longer periods of time. Also, having less muscle mass means alcohol stays in the blood for a longer period, prolonging the effects.
  • Being intoxicated feels different – Seniors have a lower tolerance to the effects of alcohol. Intoxication typically happens more swiftly and lasts longer than in someone younger.
  • Older adults are more likely to have other conditions made worse with alcohol consumption – Health conditions more common in seniors can be made worse with alcohol use. Seniors are also more likely to be using medications that should not be mixed with alcohol.

Some seniors may discuss their personal situation with their physician, and find they are able to consume alcohol without any health issues. However, those that may have a problem with alcohol can exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling ill-tempered when not drinking
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Sustaining injuries while intoxicated
  • Drinking to fight depression or anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Developing social or financial problems related to drinking
  • Lying about drinking habits
  • Poor hygiene
  • Drinking against the advice of their physician or healthcare provider


There are many programs in place that can help seniors that are abusing alcohol, and research shows that programs are more effective when they are targeted to people in this age group. If you think someone may have a drinking problem, encourage them to reach out for help. 

Comfort Keepers® Can Help

It’s hard to stay connected to loved ones that live far away, and the trusted care team at Comfort Keepers can help. Our caregivers can provide companionship and wellness support, remind clients to take medication, provide transportation to scheduled appointments, and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens and diets. As part of an individualized care plan, caregivers can let a senior’s care team know if there are changes in behavior or physical characteristics. Our goal is to see that clients have the means to find the joy and happiness in each day, regardless of age or acuity.

To learn more about our in-home care services, contact your local Comfort Keepers location today.


References “Alcohol Abuse Amongst the Elderly: A Complete Guide.” Web. 2018.

National Institute on Aging. “Facts about Aging and Alcohol” Web.2017.

U.S. News and World Report. “The Do’s and Don’ts of Alcohol Intervention for Seniors” Web. 2018.


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We understand choosing an in-home care provider can be a difficult decision, and we want to make your journey as easy as possible. We're here to support you by providing helpful senior care tips and information on in-home care and senior health and wellbeing topics.

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